Tracy McGrady Ready for the Next Chapter
After playing in the NBA for 16 years, scoring 19,490 points, winning two scoring titles, making seven All-Star appearances as well as seven All-NBA teams, traveling countless miles and enduring significant wear and tear on his body, Tracy McGrady decided to retire from the game of basketball in late August.
The 34-year-old McGrady wants to start the next chapter of his life so he decided it was time to walk away from the league that he had played in since he was a teenager out of Mount Zion Christian Academy. Now, less than two months into his retirement and days away from the start of the 2013-14 season, McGrady couldn’t be happier with his decision.
“Shoot,” McGrady says, “I’m loving it.”
In recent years, McGrady was no longer enjoying himself in the NBA. Basketball didn’t give him the joy that it once did. He spent the last several seasons jumping around from team to team, playing for Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and San Antonio Spurs, as well as a stint with the Qingdao Eagles in China. In all of the NBA stops, McGrady came off of the bench and was no longer a focal point of the team, as he was earlier in his career. Meanwhile, his four kids were growing up and missing their father. It was no longer worth it for him to continue playing.
“I was just drained and tired of the bull**** to be honest with you,” McGrady said. “Not really getting the opportunity to show what I could do, I wasn’t going to put myself through that kind of situation again.
“Right now, I’m just enjoying my life and enjoying being free. It hasn’t been that way since I was 18 years old; every year grinding it out, getting my body ready for the NBA’s rigorous regular season. I’d be in training camp and preseason right now, but instead I get to relax and be with my kids, just enjoying life. My kids love it and I’m really enjoying the opportunity to be around them. My boys are seven and four right now and my daughters are 10 and five. Just to be able to go out and get to see them play in their little league, basketball league and soccer league, it feels so good to be out there and to see that. I love that. They love having me there, seeing them play, and that brings joy to me. Being away and traveling all the time during an NBA season, you don’t get those opportunities so I’m enjoying it.”
McGrady is still feeling the effects of his time in the NBA. After suffering a number of injuries throughout the course of his career, he still experiences pain throughout his day, although he has tried to stay shape.
“Obviously it’s taken a toll, my body aches when I wake up in the morning,” McGrady said. “But at the same time, I still work out. I didn’t just completely shut it down, I still try to get my workouts in, just doing little maintenance things. It’s fine though. Playing 16 years in the NBA and going through 82-game seasons, that’s obviously going to have an effect on your body from all that traveling and all the minutes that you play. It takes a toll on you, but my body feels good overall.”
Those injury issues are what tempted McGrady to consider performance-enhancing drugs late in his career. McGrady insists he never actually used PEDs, but that he looked into it because he desperately wanted to perform at a high level again and nothing else was working.
“To go from the level I was playing at, to having my knee blow out on me and then to try to work out to get to that level again and just not being able to do it, that’s when I contemplated [using performance-enhancing drugs],” McGrady said. “I tried going to Germany [for platelet-rich plasma therapy] and I tried everything you could possibly try. I tried doing it the right way and it just didn’t happen. I got back healthy, but not to my explosive self. Confidence-wise and mentally, that was tough. It was probably the biggest challenge for me to get over. That hurdle was tough. It was just a mental block that I just couldn’t erase. I couldn’t do a lot of the moves that I was accustomed to doing, and it was challenging in the beginning. When I did overcome that, I had lost the desire to still play ball. The last three years, I gave it a go, but I was mentally ejected.”
Initially, there was some speculation that McGrady was going to return overseas for another season, that his retirement was only from the NBA and not from basketball altogether. However, McGrady says that was never the case and that he won’t be returning to the court – in any country.
“I just wanted to play that one year and have my fans in China get to see me up close and personal before I shut it down,” McGrady said. “I really had no plans on playing over there again. I’m just so excited to be home with my family right now watching basketball, going to basketball games and becoming a fan now. I can take my kids to a Rockets game and be with them; that’s what I’m looking forward to. I don’t want to play basketball anymore, I’m over it. I enjoyed my 16-year career and now it’s time to open up that second chapter.”
Early on, that new chapter will consist of seeing his kids grow up and being more involved in their lives. But McGrady is open to eventually returning to basketball in some capacity. He has given some thought to becoming a broadcaster, and he has appeared on NBA TV’s Open Court alongside other former players. He also has interest in working in a front office and possibly becoming a general manager of a team.
“I really don’t have any interest in coaching, but maybe I’ll be a GM,” McGrady said. “That’s something that I could see myself doing. I think playing in the league for so long and recognizing talent could help me in that job. Not only that, but I’m a student of the game. I know players, I know their tendencies, I know what they like to do. I have a high basketball I.Q. and I know the game. With that knowledge and experience, I think that would go a long way.”
One advantage that McGrady would have if he became an executive is that this new generation of NBA players has a great deal of respect for him. The league’s young players didn’t grow up watching Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird. Sure, they’ve seen some highlights and old games, but they grew up watching McGrady’s battles against Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson among others. He was in the prime of his career when they fell in love with basketball. Many name McGrady as their favorite player and some have admitted they owned a pair of his signature shoes, one of his T-Mac shirts, a jersey or a poster when they were young.
“It’s awesome, it seems like everywhere I go I’ll meet some young guys and they’ll tell me that I was their favorite player, they respected my game and really looked up to me,” McGrady said. “That’s a great feeling to know that you left something behind and that these young guys respect you and you could possibly help them with their game. I’m here for these guys; I want them all to be successful, not just on the basketball court, but in life in general. I want to change that landscape of young guys becoming professional players and striving to be great on the basketball court, but failing off the court financially or getting in trouble with the law. I want to change that landscape and mentor these guys. If possible, I want to change that landscape of what’s been going on in the past.”
Many of those young players who look up to McGrady believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Since he announced his retirement, there have been debates about whether McGrady deserves to be inducted into the Hall. While he had outstanding individual success, some hold his struggles in the postseason against him. At the end of the day, McGrady is just honored to be mentioned as a possible Hall of Famer.
“It’s a great thing to just be in the conversation,” McGrady said of his Hall of Fame candidacy. “I’m from Auburndale, FL, where there’s 10,000 people. Well, I’m sure it’s grown over the years, but when I was growing up there, the population was 10,000. It’s a small town in Florida and there’s not really much going on down there. To come from there and see ahead 16 years later, to be mentioned as a potential Hall of Famer is overwhelming to me.
“Whether I get in or I don’t, it really doesn’t matter to me. I know what I did in my career, a lot of my peers respected my game. Kobe Bryant was asked, ‘Who was the toughest to defend?’ He mentioned me, and he’s by far one of the top-five greatest players of all-time. I know what I left behind so if I don’t get in, so be it. I enjoyed my career and I don’t have anything to be ashamed of.”